A look at Charlton’s dealings on previous transfer deadline days leaves your face emulating the one that Reece Oxford Tweeted in reaction to his loan move to the Addicks breaking down earlier in the week.
For the club’s activity in the final hours of transfer windows since the first in 2002 has often been desperate, bizarre, and occasionally insulting.
The worst of which, undoubtedly, came in January 2014. Cult hero Yann Kermorgant sold for much less than his value, and replaced by a man who had to pretend he knew how Matt Holland was in order to convince us he wanted to be in SE7. The seven-figure sum spent on Piotr Parzyszek, particularly following the sale of Kermorgant, the perfect example of this regime’s failings.
But it is not just under the stewardship of Roland Duchatelet that Charlton have made massive misjudgements on transfer deadline days. Omar Pouso’s 45 minutes of football at The Valley treasured by those who saw them, cashing in on the talismanic Andy Reid completely derailing Alan Pardew side’s chances of an immediate return to the Premier League, and Luke Holden currently finds himself playing for Northern Premier League Premier Division side Marine.
Equally as telling that the only genuine successful deadline day signings, from the 16 made, are Chris Perry and Jerome Thomas. Probably best to avoid Sky Sports News for the entire day in the knowledge that even if the Addicks do add to their squad late on, history suggests the signing will ultimately be remembered as a hilarious failure.
But it is not unfair to suggest, regardless of the additions already made this month, further signings are required in order for Jose Riga’s side to have the best possible chance of avoiding relegation. The position we’re in means settling for what we’ve got, or getting carried away with the manner of the victory against Rotherham, would be a little naïve.
So too is it naïve to suggest, despite appearing to be for the first time under Duchatelet’s reign of terror, that the squad is suitably stocked on numbers. The injuries of Ahmed Kahsi, Patrick Bauer and Alou Diarra, the uncertainty over the futures of Cristian Ceballos, Franck Moussa and Ricardo Vaz Te, and the general ineptitude of Naby Sarr, El-Hadji Ba and Roger Johnson bring it down considerably. Not to mention Rhys Williams presumably heading back to Middlesbrough.
Then there’s the inexperience, and inconsistency, at left-back with Morgan Fox fluctuating between competent and catastrophic and Tareiq Holmes-Dennis seemingly not yet deemed ready to replace him, and that there remains no adequate cover for Chris Solly on the right. Room exists for further additions.
Despite that relative weakness in the full-back positions, it’s further forward where Charlton’s priorities will lie. Tony Watt’s departure, Ricardo Vaz Te’s imminent exit, and the general lack of faith many have in Reza Ghoochannejhad leaves the Addicks a little short in attack. That particularly the case with Igor Vetokele and Ademola Lookman not boasting the most impressive fitness records.
A permanent signing of genuine quality, at this stage of the window, is unlikely, especially with clubs likely to demand inflated fees for a goalscorer. A loan, who can provide some competition and support to those we have already, is more realistic.
So too does the squad lack an advanced central midfielder. Johnnie Jackson, Jordan Cousins and Diego Poyet all excellent options, but too similar to allow Riga flexibility. Playing five in the middle, which may be needed against stronger opposition, counterproductive if the three playing centrally are more combative than creative.
The link with Serge Gnabry, though his time at West Brom suggests there may be some question marks over his attitude, is therefore promising. The Arsenal youngster providing another option out wide, probably needed despite Zakarya Bergdich’s attempts to emulate Frederic Bulot, as well being able to play in the middle.
But, of course, working out what is still needed based on what we’ve got is thrown out the window if players are allowed to leave late on. The chances of Lookman, Johann Berg Gudmundsson or any other key player departing, particularly with dead wood to remove off the wage bill first, slim, but you can never be completely reassured under this ownership.
Irrespective of what happens, at least it can’t be worse than replacing Kermorgant with Parzyszek.
It a reflection of the failure of this regime that the diligent and committed Charlton Athletic supporters who travel to all parts of the country, ignoring past suffering and irrationally hoping they will return home victorious, have been left so starved of the rewards their efforts deserve.
To the extent that even the most optimistic have been reduced to laughing at their particular inability to perform away in order to take some sort of pleasure from their travels. “We’re the Charlton, the mighty Charlton, we never win away,” sung early on by an away end supportive of the team but not the regime.
And as full-time approached, the same song was being belted out with increased gusto. But not in an attempt to embrace the Addicks’ ineptitude, instead to further the embarrassment that those of a Rotherham United persuasion were suffering.
Or at least those of a Rotherham United persuasion who remained inside the New York Stadium. Many departing long before substitute Ademola Lookman finished coolly in stoppage-time to give Jose Riga’s side a 4-1 lead, and seal a vital three points against a relegation rival. Those in the away end savouring every last moment of this rare, and excellent, away win.
The visiting supporters enjoying themselves from the fourth minute, as the heavily criticised Zakarya Bergdich and Simon Makienok combined for the latter to emphatically smash the Addicks in front. The Dane shh-ing the away end, but they were too busy celebrating as wildly as they have all season to oblige.
Their joy, however, was rather rudely interrupted seven minutes later. Various members of Charlton’s backline nervy and out of position, allowing Chris Burke to draw the hosts level. The high intensity of the visitors taking a momentary knock, and the slightly unstable backline allowing the Millers the occasional opening.
But Igor Vetokele’s energy and fight, battling for every cause, never dipped, and he was presented with the opportunity to claim a deserved first league goal of the season just before the break. Johann Berg Gudmundsson getting the better of Joe Mattock, and teeing up the Angolan to tap in from close range.
So often have the Addicks conceded just before the break this campaign, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of their supporters throughout the interval, and laying the foundations for a gutless capitulation in the second period.
And scoring this goal had the opposite effect. The mood positive and supportive, even before Simon Makienok was left unmarked to head in Gudmundsson’s corner, celebrate in front of the home supporters, and give Charlton what appeared an unsaleable lead.
That confirmed with 16 minutes to go as Jonson Clarke-Harris blasted a penalty, one he won himself having been hauled down by a clumsy Jorge Teixeira, dramatically over Stephen Henderson’s bar.
Late saves from Charlton’s goalkeeper doing little to dispute the suggestion that Rotherham had long been beaten, in scoreline and mentally, with Lookman inflicting one final crushing blow on the hosts.
A first league win in 12 games. Only a third league away win in the space of a year. The Addicks still occupying a place in the Championship’s bottom three, and still firmly in a state of crisis, reaffirmed by one final chant of “Roland out” before the away end emptied.
But such stats and facts only make this superb away performance more deserved, for those supporters who travelled and players who fought in adversity, and more enjoyable.
Also enjoyable because of how vital this game was for both sides. With Rotherham four points above Charlton in 21st, defeat would be almost terminal for the Addicks.
That there were nerves among the 700 visiting supporters, many of who had travelled on free coaches provided by the club, was therefore understandable. Increasing as news filtered through that Makienok was the man chosen to replace the departed Tony Watt, and Bergdich had kept his place in an otherwise unchanged side.
And those nerves moved no closer towards settling as Rotherham created the first opening of the game. An unmarked, but thankfully off-balance, Joe Newell, turning the ball wide after Danny Ward had glanced Burke’s cross into his path.
Nonetheless, as the visiting supporters switched back and forth between anti-regime heckles and supportive chants, there was a certain amount of fight and energy in Charlton’s early efforts that suggested they were not simply going to capitulate like they have done in many high-pressure games. Pressing high, and battling for every ball.
So too were they moving the ball quicker, and showing a greater reluctance to cheaply give it away. Makienok holding the ball up well, and picking out the run of Bergdich. Anticipation increasing in the away end with each stride from the Moroccan, doing superbly well to hold off two Rotherham men.
Almost unnoticed, Makienok had continued his run, and found himself unattended on the edge of the box as Bergdich played the ball across. The Dane putting the momentum of his run and all the strength of his right foot into a first-time strike that gave Millers goalkeeper Lee Camp absolutely no chance. Out of nothing, the advantage was Charlton’s.
Pandemonium among the away supporters following, reaffirming their desire to support the team regardless of their hatred of the regime, and the gesturing Makienok enjoying it equally as much. The sarcastic cheers normally sent his way replaced by genuine ones.
And though Grant Ward immediately attempted to respond for the hosts, tamely firing wide from distance, this goal seemed vital for Charlton’s hopes of executing their game plan. The early boost increasing the intensity of their pressing, as Vetokele saw a strike well saved by Camp and Makienok came inches from embarrassing the goalkeeper by charging down his clearance. This energetic display stunning.
It was, therefore, incredibly frustrating that such forward energy was not matched by defensive resolve. With Rotherham spending most of their time penned into their own half, Harry Lennon’s inability to deal with a bouncing long ball under pressure from Grant Ward allowed Neil Redfearn’s side in. Danny Ward ultimately sending an unmarked Burke free, and the Nottingham Forest loanee finishing through Henderson.
But there could be no time for self-pity and a feeling that a Rotherham equaliser was cruel on the Addicks. They simply had to respond immediately to conceding, and resume their high-intensity efforts. A memo that Bergdich seemingly didn’t receive, as he carelessly misplaced a pass straight to Newell, and his resulting strike flashed just wide of Henderson’s post.
In fact, in addition to levelling the scores, Rotherham’s equaliser had drawn the overall pattern of play closer to some sort of equality. The Addicks, with Jackson, Jordan Cousins and Vetokele particularly combative, still fighting incredibly hard, but the Millers now appeared more confident in their attempts to capitalise on what remained a somewhat uncomfortable Charlton back four.
The tight nature of this contest probably best summed up as the two sides exchanged dead-ball efforts midway through the half. Gudmundsson’s strike claimed by Camp, and Burke’s attempt always just veering wide. Hard to predict where this game was going, after such a dominant start from the Addicks.
While Riga’s men continued to include the game’s standout player, however, it was arguably they who possessed the greatest threat. Camp racing off his line to prevent Vetokele from scoring, narrowly beating him to Bergdich’s ball over the top. The Angolan relentless.
But before Charlton supporters had stopped ruing Vetokele’s inability to connect, the Millers found themselves cursing the wastefulness of Grant Ward. The ball falling to him inside the box, in a position from which it appeared easier to score, only to skew it horribly wide. A chance out of nothing for Rotherham, but a huge let off for the Addicks.
One that Vetokele was intent on making costly for the hosts. The Angolan in again as Cousins played him through, but Farrend Rawson, just about staying within the laws of the game, did enough to hold off the tenacious forward.
Some bemoaned referee Keith Stroud’s failure to award a penalty, and some bemoaned the existence of referee Keith Stroud. But the incident, decent defending from Rawson rather than anything else, was soon forgotten.
Attentions turned as Gudmundsson, showing huge improvement upon recent lacklustre efforts, left Mattock for dead and broke into the box. He might have shot, but unselfishly teed up Vetokele, with the Angolan bundling his pass over the line. The lead regained with a minute to go until half-time.
The celebrations in the away end just as emphatic as the first. The nervousness, the anger towards the running of the club and the pain felt in recent months all contributing towards a release of joyful energy. This felt huge.
Alas, it would have been misguided to have remained carried away once the celebrations died down. Reaffirmed as Danny Ward cut in from the right at the start of the second half, and produced a curling effort that required a stunning save from Henderson to keep it out. Ward’s reaction suggesting he, as much as anyone else inside the New York Stadium, was not quite sure how the Millers hadn’t drawn level.
And he might have been left wondering how his side had found themselves two goals behind following the conclusion of Charlton’s next attack, with the characteristically committed Jackson driving an effort narrowly wide. Not a fluent and flowing start to the half from the Addicks, but there certainly remained enough about them to extend their lead.
That particularly the case given that Rotherham quickly began to grow more desperate, and their supporters more frustrated. Danny Ward’s tame shot, straight at Henderson, only fractionally better than Burke running the ball out of play, Grant Ward slipping over, and countless misplaced passes.
Angst around the New York Stadium only increasing as Makienok, who hadn’t exactly warmed himself to the hearts of Rotherham supporters, clashed with Kirk Broadfoot. The pair unable to leave each other alone, and both ultimately booked.
There was not, however, a contrasting mood of calm in the away end. Grant Ward’s horribly wayward strike providing some welcome relief, but not before Luciano Becchio had somehow been unable to flick fellow substitute Clarke-Harris’ header beyond Henderson. The two sides still separated by the finest of margins.
Fine margins also involved as Camp spectacularly kept out Jackson’s marvellous free-kick. Premature celebrations beginning in the away end before the goalkeeper’s fingertips incredibly tipped the effort over the bar.
But Camp, and his defence, weren’t in quite such sensational form from the resulting corner. The goalkeeper going wandering, his defence leaving a 6’7 forward unmarked, and Makienok able to head home Gudmundsson’s free-kick delivery. The Dane informing the home supporters on this occasion that it might be wise to keep quiet, much to their displeasure.
If the previous two goals had been real expressions of joy, this was simply one of relief. The nerves that had always been their regardless of the situation in this must win game suddenly vanishing.
So, of course, it was only right that the Addicks unnecessarily made things difficult for themselves. The uncertainty returning almost immediately as Clarke-Harris broke into the box, and was brought to the ground by Teixeira. There could be few complaints.
And nor could there be, at least in the away end, any complaints with Clarke-Harris’ resulting effort. Attempting to lash his spot-kick with all his might, he forgot to keep the ball down, sending it hurtling into the far reaches of the stand behind the goal that occupied the Charlton supporters. The forward crippled with embarrassment; the visiting supporters crippled with laughter.
Those nerves disappearing again, even if Clarke-Harris appeared desperate to make amends. An effort drilled wide and a header turned away from goal not troubling Henderson, nor the rather happy Addicks behind the goal.
More troubling for Henderson, however, was Becchio’s close-range header. Andrew Shinnie’s cross perfect for the former Norwich forward, and his execution decent enough to score, but Henderson pulled off an incredible reaction. This the sort of day where almost everything goes your way.
That this was one of those confirmed as Rotherham, in desperation rather than in hope, continued to commit bodies forward in stoppage time. A gap appearing for Gudmundsson to exploit, and substitute Lookman sent through. The youngster finishing with the calmness and maturity of a forward of far greater years.
A strike that merely rounded off an away performance of unexpected quality, and allowed for even more of the equally unexpected jubilant and vocal celebrations in the away end. Players have sometimes hid from supporters in recent weeks, but the group collectively acknowledged the efforts of their supporters at full-time.
The efforts of the players, and a delighted Riga, acknowledged in turn. Joyful scenes, a winning feeling, and something resembling pride felt for the first time in months. Glorious.
Though they did respond, it was that opening burst of pressure, energy and intensity that really rattled Rotherham. They panicked on the ball far too often, and had little response to the relentless efforts of the Addicks.
Relentless efforts, as much as quality and cohesion, have been completely absent in recent weeks, and the fully committed performance was probably what makes this so pleasing.
To see Jackson and Cousins at their best, fighting for every ball in the middle, Gudmundsson emulating the Gudmundsson of last season, with constant testing runs, and Makienok, in addition to his two well taken goals, battle more than he has done for much of the rest of the season combined, was uplifting.
Also uplifting were Vetokele’s efforts. The forward simply exceptional, chasing every loose battle, constantly pressurising defenders with energy that a man who has only recently returned from injury should not have, and able to provide a threat on goal. Sublime.
Uplifting, too, was the cohesion and collective spirit that Riga seems to have immediately provided. Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Meire, irrespective of how the Addicks were performing, lambasted throughout the 90 minutes and beyond, but the head coach respected and celebrated. For some, it’s difficult to split him from the regime, but maybe it’s better off viewing him as part of the team.
It is, however, vital to remain cautious. A defeat to Bristol City next week, and the efforts of today are effectively undone. This has to be backed up.
But not only have we avoided being cut completely off from safety, and been given an away day to enjoy and savour, the quality of the performance and margin of victory will provide momentum. There’s hope.
Much like the fight of supporters in recent weeks has given us a chance of getting our Charlton back, the fight of those representing the Addicks has given us a chance of avoiding relegation.
Much like receiving an expected diagnosis, regardless of the fact you’ve long accepted what you’re about to be told, is equally as painful as the symptoms themselves, hearing Chris Powell confirm many of our worst fears about Roland Duchatelet’s treatment of him and running of Charlton Athletic, regardless of the fact only Katrien Meire remains in denial, leaves you as angry as the actions themselves do.
It reaffirms the severity of the cancer that Duchatelet’s regime has inflicted upon this football club, spreading through its ethos, its people and its supporters from the moment he took over in January 2014.
Such is the level of opposition, it’s hard to imagine that any sort of reaffirmation is needed, but to hear Powell’s words, always spoken with class and dignity, on TalkSport was like hearing of the death of another from the same illness you suffer from. An emphatic addressing of this ownership’s mistreatment of Charlton Athletic.
The flat-capped one merely laughed in response to presenter Andy Goldstein suggesting they “talk about [his] relationship with Roland Duchatelet”. Like there seemingly isn’t one between owner and club, and owner and supporter, there was no relationship between Powell and owner.
He knew from his first meeting with Duchatelet, before a game had been played or a signing made, that he would not be the manager of Charlton for much longer.
Before a signing was made, but not before Powell had been told who to sign. There were better players within the network, according to Duchatelet, than Ben Hamer, Chris Solly, Rhoys Wiggins and Yann Kermorgant. Duchatelet, assumingly on the evidence of his scouts or his bank account, did not believe the core of players that made Powell’s Charlton so strong and special even in times of adversity were good enough for the Championship.
Players that had proved their exceptional quality in the second tier, regardless of the lowly league position the Addicks occupied at the time, deemed not good enough by a man with no genuine knowledge of it or them. Powell particularly keen to express the quality of Kermorgant – the best player he believes he’s managed.
Instead, Piotr Parzyszek, Loic Nego and Reza Ghoochannejhad were thrown his way. Yohann Thuram turning up for training unannounced, and Powell only made aware of his existence once he’d received a phone call to tell him there was a new goalkeeper downstairs at the training ground. Though it was “never the players fault” that they were, players of low quality thrusted upon him.
And the suggestion, that Meire has so often sought to deny, that Duchatelet told Powell to play these players was confirmed. Powell, as you might expect, said no. He never said yes.
So too was he asked after each game why certain players did not play. That they weren’t ready or simply not good enough, based on Powell’s judgement as a manager and not one as Duchatelet’s puppet, not enough to convince the owner.
But he stood up for himself, for the club, and for us. You fear the other head coaches that Duchatelet has been keen to employ have not done the same.
In such circumstances, it’s easy to see why results and performances under Duchatelet’s ownership were largely poor for Powell. An impossible position for him, and the bulk of his players, to work under. The owner’s objectives not to win games of football, but to instil his flawed philosophy into the club at whatever cost.
It might even be the case that the celebrations in those victories over QPR and Sheffield Wednesday were a little understated. Not even the wild scenes at The Valley and his crossbar swinging antics doing enough to express the unbelievable achievement those two wins were.
Or maybe more extreme celebrations should be reserved for when Duchatelet and Meire finally depart, and take their cancerous ideology with them. A heavy sigh, the sort that many Charlton supporters have made in recent months, Powell’s response to the suggestion that this regime are here to stay.
When asked what their agenda is for this club, he could not provide an explanation. “That’s the question that I’d love to get an answer to. I can’t see what the end game is.” He, too, probably finding Meire’s pathetic PowerPoint presentation an insult.
The turnover of head coaches and players one of his many concerns. “Why they haven’t hired a British manager is beyond me,” said Powell, having asked how long a failing process can be repeated.
But so too, what with him being as connected to a club that he called “unique” on several occasions as any supporter, did the former boss raise what is arguably the greatest worry among supporters. Their failure to attempt to understand the club, connect with it, and connect with supporters.
“I bet they don’t know the club formed a political party to get back to The Valley. They need to know that.” And that has been proved by their constant attempts to belittle and undermine us; they have no idea the lengths Charlton supporters will go to fight for their football club.
And maybe we could get Powell, flat cap and all, to join in with the next protest in SE7. For he certainly won’t be coming back while Duchatelet remains in control. Dismissive of Goldstein even proposing a theoretical scenario where Jose Riga is sacked tomorrow, and he’s asked to come back. “That won’t happen.”
His was not, however, at all bitter. This not a rant or an expression of anger. Constantly controlled and thoughtful, he even reiterated that he was philosophical about his dismissal and that being sacked is simply “part of the journey”.
For Powell is an incredibly intelligent chap, and someone you would love to have a several-hour long discussion with about football. His insight on how to address the lack of black managers in the Football League, suggesting it was unfair to blame the system but that it was equally important to make sure potentially promising black coaches are not lost, absolutely fascinating.
Nonetheless, you could forgive him if he had entered a hate-fuelled moan about his treatment by Duchatelet. Horrendous treatment of someone that had given so much for the club, cares so much about the club, and held it so closely to his heart.
You were given another reminder of how just how closely Powell holds this club when he spoke about his playing career. Huge affection for Curbs expressed, Matt Holland described as the “perfect Charlton player”, and some regret over the “mental block” that was imposed after reaching 40 points each season in the Premier League because “we achieved what we had to do”.
You couldn’t help but smile in reflection, nor could you has Powell remembered his time as an England international. Real pride expressed, not only purely personally with his debut being “the best 45 minutes”, but a sense of pride that he’d been able to “put Charlton on the map” by being selected for the national team.
His England debut the best moment of his life, but winning League One the best moment of his managerial career. Signing those 18 players in the summer of 2011 described as a “gamble”, but one that certainly came off. A reminder that that title-winning season, Powell’s first full one in management, is an achievement you can’t underestimate.
A reminder, too, that as we head closer to a return to League One, it appears Powell’s efforts as manager are about to be thrown away. It almost as seems as if he did not rebuild a club after years of decline, reconnect disillusioned supporters, and build a squad that many Addicks will tell you is one of their favourites of all time.
Thrown away because of a flawed regime, led by an owner that continues to insult the club and a CEO that continues to insult supporters.
Powell deserved better. This club deserves better. We deserve better.
Unfortunately for Duchatelet and Meire, they can’t simply sack supporters for standing up to them, and replace them with new ones that they can control.
Big shout out to @CptBlackaddick, whose timeline I have scanned in addition to my own in order to put together this piece. He deserves your follow.
A mood of fear and worry exists as Charlton Athletic prepare to travel to the side who hover immediately above the relegation zone. Fear from the repercussions that failing to beat Rotherham United will have, and a legitimate worry that the Addicks will crumble under the pressure of this must-win game. It should not have come to this.
Or at least it would not have come to this had the club been run with a coherent strategy, which made success on-the-pitch the primary objective. If a succession of underqualified head coaches had not been appointed, and a boss had been chosen purely on the basis of his managerial ability. If signings of quality had been made on a consistent basis, and not largely plucky from a horrendous scouting network.
Unquestionably committed performances, from a side that showed enough promise at the start of the season to raise hopes of a top ten finish, would have also been useful in avoiding this situation. Maybe the sort of mental strength that means success can be had in adverse circumstances, and pathetic capitulations can be avoided, too. And a bit of defensive resolve, midfield creativity and forward potency absent.
As such, the Addicks can feel no sense of injustice that they head to the New York Stadium needing a win for the same reason as opposition whose ambitions have always been to avoid relegation at all costs. This a position that, as a result of their own faults, Charlton firmly deserve to be in.
And it is a position that they must get themselves out of. Reinforcements can be called for, both on the pitch in terms of new signings and off the pitch with the club handing free travel to supporters, but those that are currently representing the Addicks need to meet expectations in these high-pressure games.
No excuses will be accepted if Rotherham, showing some fight of their own in recent weeks, are seven points clear of Charlton come Saturday evening.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1-1 ROTHERHAM UNITED
Patrick Bauer’s second-half equaliser rescued a point for the Addicks on a frustrating afternoon at The Valley in September.
Rotherham, who needed Lee Camp’s fingertips and Charlton’s wastefulness to maintain a cleansheet into half-time, took the lead in controversial circumstances just before the break.
Referee Keith Stroud awarding the Millers a corner, despite Jonson Clarke-Harris’ free-kick quite clearly deflecting behind off one of his teammates, and Farrend Rawson left unmarked to head in from the resulting delivery.
Despite Guy Luzon’s side continuing to control the game, a result would have been put beyond them were it not for Nick Pope. The goalkeeping saving superbly from Tony Andreu’s header at the conclusion of a Rotherham break.
But Charlton’s consistent pressure finally told with 25 minutes to play, as Bauer bundled the ball over the line following Simon Makienok’s knock across the face of goal.
And though the Addicks pressed for a winner, with Johann Berg Gudmundsson going close, Steve Evans’ men ultimately stood firm. Charlton might have deserved more, but a point the least a hard-working Rotherham warranted.
On the face of it, a somewhat scrappy, and certainly hard-fought, draw against an inconsistent and troubled Cardiff City might not appear like an important result.
Particularly with Rotherham coming from behind to momentarily take the lead in Wales on Saturday, and the Bluebirds reduced to ten men following their equaliser.
But the point picked up at the Cardiff City Stadium has the potential to be a vital one for the Millers. A point that comes after a run of eight defeats in nine in all competitions away from home.
In fact, it was only the fourth time this season Neil Redfearn’s men have avoided defeat on the road. One of those coming at The Valley in September.
It means Rotherham’s home form is relatively impressive. Four victories in their last six at the New York Stadium, including wins over Hull City and Brighton.
But stopping the rot away from home could prove a huge mental boost to the Millers. A few scrappy points here and there on their travels, in addition to maintaining a relatively strong away record, and they’ve got a decent chance of avoiding relegation.
Charlton’s habit of not sticking by their promises is commendable, but the Addicks weren’t too far from matching their fighting talk with their actions during Saturday’s draw with Blackburn Rovers.
A response to the five and six-nil defeats in the game prior was promised, and it was just about provided. Not at all spectacular, particularly not in a second-half performance that grew incredibly sloppy, but Jose Riga’s side certainly showed some improvement from those pathetic efforts at Huddersfield and Hull.
Organisation and cohesion greater, individual improvement from plenty of underperforming players, and even a bit of threat in the final third. The 1-1 draw certainly deserved. Some sort of foundation laid, it has been suggested.
Alas, the Addicks are now 11 without victory, and signs of improvement have been shown at various times in that run. Harry Lennon, scorer of the goal against Blackburn, was meant to have saved our season with his late equaliser at Bristol City, and the second half performance in Karel Fraeye’s last home game against Nottingham Forest was spirited.
Further improvement needed on Saturday.
Andrew Shinnie could make his Rotherham debut after signing on loan from Birmingham City on Wednesday.
The winger, who has made most of his 17 appearances for the Blues this season from the bench, adds to Rotherham’s wide options that have already been boosted in this transfer window by the addition of Chris Burke.
Elsewhere, Rawson, having been named on the bench at the Cardiff City Stadium, is pushing for his first start since returning from injury. The young defender, on loan from Derby County, may come in for Ayman Belaid if he doesn’t recover from the slight groin pull he suffered towards the end of the draw in Wales.
But hopes of Lee Frecklington making a first team return for the Millers have been curtailed after the club captain limped out of a development squad game in midweek.
The midfielder was withdrawn before half-time during the second string’s win over Scunthorpe, and he’ll remain out alongside Leon Best and Stephen Kelly.
Charlton are set to welcome back Ademola Lookman from the hamstring injury that has kept the exciting young forward out of the previous five games.
And Lookman, who has impressed both up top and out wide this season, could come straight into the starting XI with Tony Watt seemingly being allowed to depart SE7. The Scot, on his return to the side following his loan spell at Cardiff City, impressive, but the Addicks still keen to move him on.
As he goes, it appears another is coming in. West Ham youngster Reece Oxford, capable of playing at the back or in midfield, will be available if his loan move is completed in time, but logic suggests he will have to settle for a place on the bench to begin with.
Elsewhere, with Patrick Bauer, Alou Diarra and Ahmed Kashi still absent, further changes to the side that drew with Blackburn last weekend are unlikely.
KEY BATTLE – ADDING EXECUTION TO THE INTENT
While the greater defensive resolve and collective organisation was certainly very pleasing, it was equally promising to see the Addicks show some genuine attacking intent against Blackburn last weekend.
Having barely been able to string a pass together at the John Smith’s Stadium and the KC, let alone enter the opposition’s final third, there was probably more threat in one Igor Vetokele run forward than there was for the duration of the previous 180 minutes.
But so too was there cause for frustration despite Charlton’s increased presence in the opposition’s half. Too often were these promising positions, instigated by the runs of Vetokele, Watt and Gudmundsson, were wasted. Aside from ramming his head into Reza Ghoochannejhad, Jason Steele was largely untroubled in the Blackburn goal.
As such, in what is lively to be a tense and nervy affair given the high pressure nature of it, it is vital that the Addicks add some execution and composure to their efforts in the final third.
That particularly the case given the resolve Rotherham have recently shown at home. Although a three goal defeat to QPR in the previous game at the New York Stadium suggests otherwise, one goal conceded in the preceding five home games is a sign of the resilience that Redfearn has instilled upon his save.
This not the sort of game where a moment of quality will separate the two sides, but more likely an error. Charlton’s forwards have to be able to pounce on the smallest mistake from the home side’s defensive line.
A gruesome battle between two sides desperate to win, but equally afraid to lose. Everyone goes home unhappy. Rotherham United 1-1 Charlton Athletic
A player wearing Charlton red collapsing in despair come full-time is not an unfamiliar sight this season. The pain and embarrassment of constant spineless defeats too much for those representing the Addicks, but sympathy has often been in short supply.
Work harder, fight more, and put in enough effort to show this pain is genuine. To show the pain you feel isn’t just personal, and instead a collective one shared by supporters and players. To show that everything has been put in in quest of a result, and not encourage a hostile atmosphere with half-heartedness.
But hearts would have sank among even the sternest of critics as Charlton’s U18s, almost as one, dropped to the Steel Park pitch. The youngsters made to appear all the more devastated as their Coventry City counterparts, needing the injection of adrenalin the moment provided to display such energy, sprinted and leaped in all directions in celebration of their progression beyond the FA Youth Cup’s fourth round.
For this was a contest, if not a battle, that required every last drop of effort from each player on both sides. Not the sort of silky passing encounter between two academy sides that is normally encouraged, but a physical one between two sides desperate for victory. Everything given by the Addicks in order to avoid the 2-1 defeat they ultimately suffered.
Or, at least, everything given from the moment the young Reds conceded a second goal inside the opening 18 minutes. Jordan Shipley, after a corner was only half-cleared, adding to Bandla Sambou’s ninth minute composed finish. Seemingly overwhelmed by the strength and pace of the Sky Blues, panicking in possession and losing almost every fight for the ball, you could not argue that this was a position they didn’t deserve to be in.
The response thereafter, therefore, even more impressive considering it would have been incredibly easy to completely crumble; something the first team have done on various occasions in similar circumstances this season. They fought harder with each passing minute, matching Coventry’s strength and pace as half-time approached, but lacked a touch of composure in the final third.
A similar story throughout the second. The effort and energy growing, but the reward it deserved continued to evade the Addicks. Coventry, providing the occasional threat on the break, worthy of as much praise for their defiant and determined defending, and Charlton constantly cutting frustrated figures as they wasted promising openings.
Such was their misfortune in front of goal, you almost expected Chris Millar to miss his 73rd minute penalty, awarded after Brendon Sarpong-Wiredu was hauled down. Millar’s composed bottom-corner finish, however, gave the Addicks some hope.
But for all their fight, effort and intent, there was to be no extension of the visitors run in the Youth Cup.
In truth, Charlton’s youngsters had reason to blame themselves for such a defeat. The slow start, and conceding two sloppy goals incredibly costly, while their lack of composure and execution in the final third ultimately the reason their fight wasn’t rewarded.
But as the beaten bodies lay on the floor, you could only share their despair. A despair their effort certainly did not deserve.
In what was a slow and scrappy start to the game, not helped by both goalkeepers having trouble landing their kicks inside the white lines of the pitch, it was Steve Avory’s side who had the first opening. Energetic skipper George Lapslie ambitiously striking from distance, sending his swerving effort over the bar.
It was not, however, a sign of things to come. Before either side had had the chance to settle, the Addicks found themselves behind.
Chris Camwell given far too much time and space in the middle, and able to send a perfect through a perfect ball that bisected Charlton’s centre-backs and met the run of Sambou. The forward calmly rounding goalkeeper Jordan Beeney, and tapping into the near-empty net.
With that, unsurprisingly, Coventry were able to final some sort of stride. The vicious wind at Corby Town’s Steel Park contributing towards this game being a physical battle rather than a contest of class and skill, and the Sky Blues were certainly winning the fight. Reece Ford winning almost everything at the back, their midfield pressing high, and forward pair Sambou and Shipley continued to apply pressure on Charlton’s somewhat struggling backline.
And still the Addicks had not properly adapted 18 minutes into the game, when the pressure applied to their attempt to clear a corner meant it fell perfectly to Shipley inside the box. The forward emphatically punishing Charlton’s somewhat weak and indecisive defending, lashing beyond a motionless Beeney.
The dropped heads of those in red suggested this was going to be a rather long night for the Addicks, enduring both the unpleasant conditions and Coventry’s overpowering strength. But to suggest this group of youngsters had accepted defeat would have been misguided.
For immediately there was an effort to respond, as if conceding the second had injected the composure and fight that should have been instilled among Avory’s men from kick-off. Lead by the resilience of Ezri Konsa, the midfield determination of Lapslie, and the unrelenting pressing both with and without the ball from forward Terrique Anderson, the Addicks began to grow back into the contest.
Millar dragging an effort wide, Taylor Maloney picking up a loose ball after excellent work from Anderson and striking past the post from distance, and Corey Addai called upon to keep out Sulaiman Bah’s, albeit rather tame, stab towards goal from the edge of the area. Promising, if lacking a little potency.
But you could not fault Coventry’s commitment to the cause, certainly showing no signs of complacency despite their advantage. A sea of Sky Blue shirts throwing themselves in front of a stinging Bah strike, that seemed to be heading in without a vital intervention.
In addition to putting Charlton back in with a reasonable chance, a goal prior to half-time for the Reds would have made this an incredibly pulsating cup tie. An anxious hush over the ground, broken by a few Charlton prayers, as Millar was sent through on goal but could only send his shot tricking beyond the far post. Unquestionably the visitors’ best chance to reduce the deficit.
And a failure to take such an opening might have proved doubly costly before the interval. The Sky Blues still possessing a threat, particularly through the pace and quick feet of Kyle Finn down the right, and the diminutive winger was the unlikely man to narrowly head a Coventry delivery wide.
Given the pressure Charlton were applying, it certainly seemed like a third goal was needed for Coventry to feel assured of their progression through to the fifth round of the competition. A third goal, or 45 minutes of unrelenting defiance in defence. Certainly more defiance than was on show as Anderson beat his man to cross for Maloney, with the Sky Blues thankful the midfielder was unbalanced as he shot over the bar.
It was the seemingly tireless Anderson that was their biggest concern, chasing down every lost cause and throwing his rather small frame around to great effect. A lovely jink on the edge of the box allowing the forward to shoot, but Addai equal.
But if his effort was tireless, there was only so much frustration the youngster could take with the chances he was failing to take. His disappointment obvious as he broke into the box, but could only strike agonisingly across the face of Addai’s goal. His unrelenting energy and pressure, but misfortune in front of goal, summing the Addicks as a whole.
You could not fault their desire at all, but you still could their execution. Coventry defending well, most certainly, and applying pressure, but too often the Addicks were wasting promising positions with blind passes and wayward crosses.
Such frustration probably the motivation behind Bah’s rather desperate appeal for a penalty just beyond the half hour. Hitting the deck rather softly right in front of the referee, the official immediately waved for play to continue. A growing sense that this wasn’t to be Charlton’s night.
A sense that was inches from growing as Coventry mounted a rare attack, with Jak Hickman’s ridiculous curling effort seemingly heading comfortable wide before coming back inside and only narrowly missing Beeney’s far post. A touch of quality in Shipley’s strike thereafter, too, as the forward spun and volleyed in one motion, but couldn’t quite direct his effort on-target.
But just as those doubts about whether the Addicks really did have a chance of completing a comeback emerged, they were soon replaced by the genuine hope that their efforts arguably deserved. Substitute Sarpong-Wiredu breaking into the box, and cynically brought down by Camwell as the full-back looked to drive across the face of goal.
Immense pressure on Millar, who had suffered the lively-but-luckless curse that had hindered Charlton’s players in forward positions, to convert. Pressure he dealt with with extreme maturity, slotting beyond Addai’s dive. Game on.
Unfortunately, the Sky Blues had also intercepted the memo that suggested there was now a game on. Their defiance only increasing, as they pressured the Addicks with energy they really should not have had at such a stage in the contest.
It forced the Addicks to panic in attacking positions, not only increasing Coventry’s chances to break forward but limiting their efforts on goal to almost nothing. The composure of Sam Bone in the middle not matched by his teammates, as they overhit passes and flung the ball into the box far too early. Even when they did create an opening, Addai was equal to Anderson’s effort.
And so too was Addai equal, when pressure may have produced nerves, to Charlton’s deliveries in the closing stages. In a game where neither ‘keeper was able to really show the true extent of their qualities, his claim in stoppage-time from a testing Millar delivery was superb.
Fitting, therefore, that it was he and his centre-backs who responded most passionately to the blowing of the full-time whistle. Their defiance throughout the game, in the face of constant Charlton pressure, as important as Coventry’s two early strikes in the Sky Blues winning this tie.
Or at least responded most passionately in celebration, for it was apparent that this defeat was an understandably tough one to take for the Addicks. The Steel Park pitch momentarily replicating a battleground, with the troops in blue marching forward beyond those in red that they had just knocked out.
For their fight and effort, Coventry deserved victory. For their early sloppiness, Charlton’s sense of injustice was partially limited. But for their fight and effort, you could not help but feel that the Addicks did not deserve to be enduring this feeling.
In the immediate aftermath, taking positives from such a defeat will be near impossible for the broken young men in Charlton’s side.
But hopefully it will be a defeat that will barely be remembered, at least not in comparison to some of the individuals who played in it. There is certainly promise among this group, irrespective of their defeat.
Konsa, after starting in relatively uncertain fashion, showed the composure and resolve that has seen him called into the first team. Lapslie probably covered more ground than anyone else, never backed out of a tackle, and passed sensibly, while Bone was very, very composed, especially in such a frantic game. Anderson giving more energy than some of Charlton’s first-team forwards have all season, and desperately not to be rewarded with a goal.
Collectively, you do hope they bounce back from this heartbreak, and look to make amends in the league. Efforts like tonight, and they surely will.
It would also be nice if they could inject their fight and desire into the first team, who seem to be overcome by adversity at times and unable to deal with testing circumstances. A really strong and committed group of lads.
If the efforts of those numerous Charlton supporters who protested post-match were a committed, cohesive and passionate antidote to the cancer that Roland Duchatelet’s regime has inflicted upon this football club, the efforts of those on-the-pitch were equivalent to sending a tamely worded email of concern in the direction of Katrien Meire’s dust-covered inbox.
For, to the credit of the Addicks, there was a response to three embarrassing and gutless defeats prior to Blackburn Rovers’ visit to The Valley. A willingness to fight, and genuinely correct the wrongs of previous weeks, rather than apathetically accepting another crushing defeat. The very least demanded.
A much more composed and determined defence withstanding the pressure applied by the visitors. Individual performances of those who had recently struggled greatly improved. A genuine roar of excitement, missing since the first game of January, as Igor Vetokele and Tony Watt drove towards goal.
And while a neutral, had they maintained consciousness, would have suggested the relative low quality of this encounter meant neither side deserved to go in at the break ahead, you could argue the lead Charlton took 15 minutes before half-time was just reward for the improvement made in testing circumstances.
Even if good fortune contributed more than 2% towards the ball the crossing line. Harry Lennon’s stab towards goal taking a wicked deflection, wrong-footing Jason Steele in the Rovers net and spinning in.
But such is the inherent weakness of this Charlton side, so often capitulating under pressure, Blackburn’s equaliser on the stroke off half-time was as predictable as Meire responding to supporter concern with contempt.
Adam Henley played in down the right, and his first-time cross picking out regular Charlton tormentor Jordan Rhodes. The fingertips of a furious Stephen Henderson not enough to keep the forward’s header out.
And like Meire can so easily lose messages of complaint sent her way, if not ignore an emphatic protest, it appeared a Charlton side that had given more than just consideration to the desires of supporters in the opening 45 misplaced that level of fight in the second period.
The football slower, the mistakes increasing, and the attacking flair, if not intent, all but vanishing. Though not helped by a referee rather keen on the sound of his own whistle, with the game unable to develop any sort of flow but for the one of groans between the two sets of supporters, a Blackburn side of minimal quality unable to be punished in the manner they might have been.
The performance respected and the point not mocked, but emotions mixed before they became overwhelmed by those associated with protests.
Better, certainly. But better in the same way Charlton offering some form of misguided communication is better than none. There’s still a need for much more.
Mixed emotions, too, in response to Riga’s first team selection for a Valley encounter since his return to SE7.
The pairing of Vetokele and Watt, starting after Cardiff’s transfer embargo prevented his loan deal from being made permanent, gave the Addicks energy and potency in attack, while the commanding figure of Jorge Teixeira, making his debut for the club having joined from Standard Liege, provided more confidence than either Rhys Williams or Roger Johnson.
But there was understandable displeasure with Zakarya Bergdich being picked to start, despite failing to impress throughout the season and seemingly being on the verge of departing the club. With Morgan Fox and his crippled confidence behind him, the left side seemed weak.
Nonetheless, it immediately became apparent that there was a much greater resolve to this Charlton side than there had been in the defeats to Huddersfield and Hull. They looked more confident and composed, and didn’t appear an incredibly obvious second best.
Teixeira and his centre-back partner Lennon, if both constantly flirting with the referee’s whistle, were intercepting Blackburn’s punts up field in commanding fashion. Passing quicker and slicker, and clever movement replacing static figures. Watt, like he’d never been away, working his way into space that seemingly wasn’t there.
In fact, had the Scot been on the same wavelength as his strike partner in the opening stages, Riga’s side might well have found themselves in front. Watt wiggling past Henley, but his low delivery just avoiding the run of Vetokele in the middle.
That brief glimmer of intent all that was required to get the home supporters, called upon by Johnnie Jackson and Riga in the week, on side. A sparsely populated, and predominately black and white, Valley certainly backing the team as Gudmundsson’s ambitious effort cleared the bar.
The regime, however, less so. The removal of an inoffensive banner and innocent supporter in the Covered End the catalyst for rendition of “stand up if you want them out”, universally partaken in. Timely that, having linked up with the lively Craig Conway, Corry Evans almost brought Charlton fans to their knees, striking across the face of goal.
But this was a rare moment when Blackburn had looked even the slightest bit threatening. Conway’s attempts to produce down the left aside, Rovers were flat and predictable.
The service for Rhodes and debutant Danny Graham, known for their ability inside the box, continued to call upon them to hold the ball up against defiant Charlton defenders. The look of frustration on Rhodes’ face as Henderson claimed a long ball that bounced into the forward’s path telling.
Telling, too, of the overall lack of quality on show. While Teixeira battled, Watt worked the ball into space and Vetokele chased after every lost cause, the Addicks continued to enjoy the more positive moments, but neither side could turn possession into anything potent.
With Rovers continuing to lump the ball forward in the general direction of their forwards, and the trickery of Charlton’s attackers earning set-piece after set-piece, it became increasingly likely that this would be a game decided not necessarily by a moment of quality but by defensive error. Or misfortune.
Blackburn’s efforts to deal with the umpteenth free-kick delivered into their box by Gudmundsson were less than convincing, but neither was Lennon’s hopeful stab towards goal with a sea of bodies ahead of him. It appeared the sort of goal mouth scramble that ultimately results in little.
But the academy graduate’s strike, via that sea of bodies, somehow found itself slowly spinning towards the far corner while Steele stood rooted to the spot. The ball taking an age to finally cross the line, but the considerable deflection and Lennon’s diligence amidst the scramble enough to put the Addicks ahead.
Having conceded 11 without reply in the previous two games, it mattered not to the home supporters how their side had taken the lead. Relief not only that Charlton had the advantage, but that those wearing red had delivered on their promise to respond to the humiliating defeats.
As the game recommenced, however, that relief was very quickly replaced by a sense of nervousness. Vetokele, flicking an improved Fox’s delivery over, attempted to ease such feelings, but knowing the habit this side has for emphatic capitulation meant half-time could not come soon enough.
A habit of capitulating that apparently still existed regardless of the increase in fight and resolve among this Charlton side.
For with their half-time lead seemingly secure, those in red gave their opponents too much space. An initial forward move, ending with Chris Taylor’s effort blocked by Lennon, recycled, with Taylor able to send Henley down the right.
His cross perfect for Rhodes, who found space in between Charlton’s centre-backs and only the fingertips of Henderson’s gloves with his header. The goalkeeper’s water bottle bearing the full brunt of his frustration as he succeeded only in tipping the ball over his line.
But, having been booed off on countless occasions so far this season, there remained encouragement for the Addicks as they left the pitch at half-time. Supporters aware that, irrespective of that momentary lapse, this had been a much improved performance, and further support was justified.
There had most certainly been a response to the previous few weeks from those in red. Now a response to conceding, so often crippling for this, was required.
Disappointing, therefore, that it was Blackburn who made the stronger start to the half. Substitute Elliott Bennett injecting some life into the visitors’ stale attacks, with his delivery picking out Graham and the forward heading into the hands of Henderson.
Tommy Spurr’s long throws, most of which had been plucked out the air by Henderson in the first half, were also beginning to cause more concern, as Hope Akpan blasted wide after one was only half cleared. At least, with Shane Duffy heading over, Rovers were unable to make the most of Charlton’s slow start to the half.
But this, given the positive periods of attacking play in the first half, was frustrating. Vetokele tiring, Watt’s decision making infuriating and not fitting of his superb runs prior to having to offload the ball, and Bergdich anonymous. Teixeira may have flicked a Gudmundsson free-kick wide in response to Blackburn’s tame efforts on Charlton’s goal, but the hosts were now on the back foot.
It appeared that changes were needed. An injection of Callum Harriott-shaped energy into the side, for example.
Riga, however, avoided the temptation to introduce fresh legs in place of those who had seemingly lost their spark. A decision that caused frustration, but one that so nearly came off. Vetokele getting in behind Duffy, only to take his run slightly wide of goal and fire from an angle that meant Steele was always favourite to save.
At the very least, the first genuine Charlton chance of this less than entertaining half, 65 minutes into it, brought fresh belief. This Blackburn side remained unimpressive, and there was surely a greater chance of reward than punishment should the Addicks attempt to play the final period of the game on the front foot.
Alas, even if they were attempting to do, the whistle of referee Robert Lewis was preventing a serious charge in the closing stages of the encounter.
Frustration not only existing towards the nature of his decisions, with red-shirted players surrounding the referee after a Chris Solly cross appeared to strike Grant Hanley’s outstretched hand but no Charlton penalty was awarded, but also his control of the game. The official intent on stopping the game as often as possible, contributing heavily towards this rather unwatchable half of football.
There would, undoubtedly, have been even further criticism sent the way of the whistle-happy referee had Rovers taken one of their glorious late chances. Particularly glorious with Rhodes on the end of both. First of all only narrowly missing Akpan’s driven cross before being denied when one-on-one with Henderson.
And maybe the post-match protests would have turned their focus to referee Lewis were the calls he made as his final blow of his most treasured possession drew closer. Ghoochannejhad, in a 50-50 race with Steele to win a loose ball, bizarrely penalised for being head-butted by the goalkeeper, before substitute Simeon Jackson was hauled down inside Charlton’s box only for the Addicks to be awarded a free-kick for an apparent hand ball against the forward.
Much like the amount of hatred among both sets of supporters for referee Lewis, therefore, the level split between the two sides was arguably the fairest of conclusions. A game that neither did enough to win.
The feeling of victory, and a deserved one at that, reserved for those who protested outside the West Stand.
Not an immediate one, of course, with those they attempt to oust still occupying their thrones. But with such numbers, passion and momentum behind these protests, it is undoubted that we will eventually win what will be a rather prolonged battle.
The emphatic nature of the protest particularly pleasing given that there were signs of improvement over the course of the 90 minutes. The increased anger created by recent events not calming as a result of a few promising moments.
For there was greater strength in a defence led superbly by Teixeira. Not always completely in control with his feet, but his dominance in the air such that he only really needs them to jump. Commanding and confident at a time when such qualities are desperately needing.
So too was there greater composure and assurance in the middle. Jackson and Jordan Cousins doing a fantastic job of breaking down Blackburn’s rare attacks that came through the middle, while maintaining a decent pace about their own. Attacks that were often frustrating, with Vetokele and Watt constantly so close to producing brilliance, but always promising.
It is, therefore, some relief that such a promising start did not ultimately become a complete capitulation. Something it might well have been had Charlton’s rather flat second half effort been suitably punished.
Granted, Blackburn became more effective with their battling forward efforts, meaning a more meaningful test was applied to Charlton’s back four, and the referee’s control of the game, infuriating for both sides, prevented momentum from being built. But it does not detract from the fact there is more than a degree of frustration about this result and performance.
Particularly because as shown when their backline was tested in the first half, Blackburn had their weakness. Even when Ghoochannejhad and Harriott were introduced, there remained an awful sluggishness that meant the Addicks were almost as limited in their forward moves as they were at Hull and Huddersfield.
It’s certainly not wrong, while also seeing the merits of this point, to feel maybe more could have been achieved.
Because there are certainly merits. If it only because the promising aspects of the performance, particularly in the opening 45, show there is something more to this side than conceding 11 without reply.
But we have shown signs of improvement previously, it was even done in Karel Fraeye’s final home game against Nottingham Forest, and immediately regressed. The winless run stretches to 11, and we remain four points from safety.
Words such as promising cannot be used at Rotherham next week. It’s three points or nothing.
Such are the inspirational qualities of Johnnie Jackson, a man paralyzed below the waist could run a marathon after taking in one of his rallying cries.
Inspiring a group of professional footballers, many of which have difficulty coordinating their legs, to avoid what is becoming an increasingly likely relegation, therefore, should be a simple task for the skipper.
Injecting some sort of belief into supporters disillusioned and demoralised, both with performances and the overall state of their football club, an even simpler one. The legendary status of Jackson, and the sense that he shares our pain, means his message ahead of Saturday’s home game against Blackburn Rovers does not feel like a token gesture.
There is genuine meaning in his heartfelt cry for support for his side. A short message that has done more to motivate supporters than anything Roland Duchatelet, Katrien Meire and Richard Murray have provided over the past two years. Unifying supporters and club in the same way the insulting words of those above the skipper have divided.
But, like Jackson has said himself, those words are meaningless if they are not supported with performances worthy of the badge. They are meaningless should the Addicks capitulate emphatically once again. If the performances of those on the pitch reflect the shambolic state of the club off it.
Fight has been promised. We need to see it, and not just from the protesting supporters.
LAST MEETING – BLACKBURN ROVERS 3-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
A sluggish Charlton performance was suitably punished at Ewood Park in September, with Blackburn recording a deserved three-goal victory.
The hosts, who dominated much of the first half but struggled to find a way past a defiant Nick Pope, finally took the lead on the stroke of half-time. Jordan Rhodes capitalising upon some questionable Addicks defending from a corner, and able to turn in Grant Hanley’s flick-on.
It took until 15 minutes from time before the two-goal advantage they had long deserved was secured, with Tom Lawrence easily beating Morgan Fox before crossing for Rhodes to double Blackburn’s lead.
And a third was added ten minutes later, as Lawrence took advantage of an opening inside Charlton’s box and drilled an effort beyond the hapless Pope. The efforts of those meant to be protecting the goalkeeping again questionable.
A relatively hard-fought victory for Blackburn’s ten men against League Two Newport County in the FA Cup on Monday may, on the surface, not seem like that important a result. The 2-1 win, irrespective of Chris Brown’s early sending off, the absolute minimum expected.
But with Rovers without a win in their previous six, ending that run ahead of this weekend’s trip to The Valley was vital. As vital as where Paul Lambert’s Blackburn go from here.
For the start the Ewood Park club enjoyed under the former Aston Villa boss, winning three and drawing two of their first five after he replaced Gary Bowyer, was certainly promising. A refreshed Lambert injecting some life into a club crippled by a transfer embargo.
But the poor run that followed, including a defeat to bottom-of-the-table Bolton, has increased doubts over the potential of the club to achieve under Lambert.
Some solace can be taken in the fact that the defeats under their new boss have all been by one goal, and fears of relegation are non-existent, but wins are going to need to be recorded soon.
Such was the extent of the suffering during a nightmare week for the Addicks, the embarrassing FA Cup exit to Colchester United at the start of it has almost been forgotten.
For the severity of the defeats at Huddersfield Town and Hull City emphatically eclipsed the tame performance in the cup. Five and six-nil defeats just punishment for a side lacking any sort of fight or effort.
Not even the re-appointment of Jose Riga, replacing the hopeless “interim” Karel Fraeye, has been enough to provide the sort of lift required. Supporters all too aware that the situation he finds himself in now is vastly different to the one at the end of the 2013/14 season, were safety was secured.
At the very least, safety appears much further away than the four points the league table would suggest it is. Mathematically, it remains a couple of positive results away, but the performances and attitude of this side suggest a couple of positive results are some way off.
Blackburn will welcome back, and welcome, a host of players after failing to field a full 18 for Monday’s FA Cup victory over Newport County.
A combination of injuries, with Fode Koita, Nathan Delfouneso, Jason Lowe and Shane Duffy all in the treatment room, and the club’s transfer embargo meant Blackburn were only able to name five substitutes at Rodney Parade. A situation worsened by Matthew Kilgallon pulling out through illness and Lee Williamson pulling up during the warm-up with a calf injury.
But centre-back Kilgallon is likely to be available, along with new addition Elliot Ward, who joined this week after being released by Bournemouth.
Recent signing Simeon Jackson, who was ineligible for the cup encounter, is also set to be involved, while fellow striker Danny Graham, who has joined on loan from Sunderland, will be in the squad for the trip to SE7. A timely boost to Lambert’s forward options, with Brown serving a suspension following his dismissal at Newport.
Jorge Teixeira is available to make his debut for Charlton after the centre-back signed from Standard Liege in the week.
And given the 11 goals the Addicks have conceded in their previous two games, many of which were the result of defensive errors, the Portuguese is likely to come straight into the starting XI. Both Roger Johnson and Rhys Williams will do extremely well to keep their place in the side.
There could also be changes further forward, with Ademola Lookman pushing for a return after his hamstring injury, and Tony Watt back at the club after his move to Cardiff fell through. Reza Ghoochannejhad, having served a one-game suspension following his red card during the defeat to Huddersfield, is also available.
But Patrick Bauer, Alou Diarra and Ahmed Kashi remain absent.
KEY BATTLE – STOPPING/TRAPPING/HARMING JORDAN RHODES
With his side set to play Charlton this weekend, it was incredibly predictable that regular Addicks tormentor Rhodes would relocate his scoring boots in the lead up to it.
The normally prolific forward had gone nine games without a goal before striking at Newport on Monday night. A timely confidence boost as he looks to add to the six goals scored against Charlton in his previous three games against them.
His superb movement has allowed him to get into scoring potions on numerous occasions, and his finishing against the Addicks has, undoubtedly, been classy. But too often have those in Charlton’s defence gifted the former Huddersfield forward his openings.
Andre Bikey, Tal Ben Haim and Pope left embarrassed at Ewood Park in December 2014. Roger Johnson gifting Rhodes his two goals at The Valley last season. Defensive organisation and resolve collectively lacking as the Scotland international grabbed another two against the Addicks in September.
Pressure, therefore, on Teixeira to prove his worth in the English game immediately. Defenders with big reputations in this division have been outclassed by Rhodes, and the Portuguese debutant will need to step up and prevent the Addicks from capitulating once again.
Failing that, lock him up wherever Katrien Meire has been hiding this week. Or set some angry protesters upon him prior to kick-off.
Home games against sides in the bottom half of the division are absolute must wins if we want to avoid relegation. The recovery from the previous two weeks, however, isn’t going to be automatic. Charlton Athletic 0-2 Blackburn Rovers